Set Adrift, pt. 3


With the engines down, the ship grew colder by the minute, the icy fingers of space creeping in straight through the hull to rob the passengers of their remaining warmth. Every so often the ship moaned as its skin tightened against the metal skeleton, a creaking protest to its helpless condition.

As the pirates determinedly stalked down the hall, they shuddered. It was eerie. Usually they faced open resistance, a fortified blockade that could be smashed or cut, something to push against. Here…nothing. They knew the ship wasn’t empty, but to all appearances, the crew was gone. Which meant they were hiding, either cowards refusing to accept the inevitable or cunningly planning a trap. Eyes peeled, they moved towards the source of the clatter they had heard while in the engine room. As they reached an intersection, they listened hard. Nothing. A brief pause later, they turned left.

Had they looked up, they may have seen a slight puff of fog escape through the grillwork separating the hall from the veins and arteries of the Starfish.

Looking down at the intruders, Spark had sighed relief. They weren’t headed towards Genie. He pulled his shirt up to cover his nose and mouth. It would help a bit to keep his breath from betraying his presence. He was lying belly-down on the pipe directly above the grillwork, inching forward as silently as possible. If he made a sound, he would be an easy target from below.

As Spark kept an eye on the pirates, he signaled to Max which direction they were headed. Meters above him, in the gaps between the cubes that were the storage compartments, Max swung deftly between pipes, rifle strapped to his back. He had removed his shirt, torn it in half, folded the pieces, and tied them to the bottom of his boots with the laces to muffle his footfalls. Instead of a ringing impact, his boots made no sound louder than a heartbeat as he climbed between pipes. Granted, his own heartbeat was heavy and rapid enough that he was sure it would alert the pirates to his intent long before he revealed himself. He watched for signals from Spark as he readied his position.

Spark’s hands flashed. Corridor C, Left.

Got it. Max swung around the corner of the nearest cube and disappeared.

Spark slowly lifted himself up into a crawling position, moving along steadily with the pirates as they hunted unaware of their observers. They were almost in position.

*

In the life-support room, Genie worked as furiously and silently as she possibly could. Already she had managed to restore some measure of gravity throughout the ship, but the air simply wouldn’t come on. Something had fried deep in the gadgetry that she couldn’t reach without taking more of it apart. Beside her lay chunks of metal with wires sprouting like grass from every side, complicated bits of machinery of which she vaguely remembered the purpose. Genie worked best under pressure, but this kind of pressure was different than that to which she was accustomed. School pressure, training pressure, work pressure, fine. Save the lives of your entire crew? Not routine stuff, here.

Already her twitching nerves had caused her to slip, the first time cutting her hand on an exposed screw and the second dropping the wrench. As painful as the cut was, the wrench was worse. She knew that she might have just blown her entire operation. If she was found before her mission was complete, her crew was dead even if they managed oust the pirates. Already she was having difficulty getting enough air, taking longer, deeper breaths just to operate.  She would do this, needed to do this. Sweat dripped down her brow, her concentration and effort making her feel hot even in the worsening cold.

Damnit! She wanted to scream. Work!

*

On the other side of the emotional spectrum, Jax was pretty happy. This wasn’t surprising, Jax had a smile for pretty much any situation, even one as dire as this. Her trap in the storage compartment had worked perfectly and she was off to her next task. She slid down air ducts and hopped around corners, quick but careful not to make much noise. This ship was her home and she knew it well. She knew how to get from the top of the ship to the bottom without being seen. The air ducts made excellent slides on boring days, so she had explored them thoroughly. Despite her rank and position, Jax knew how to have a good time and took every opportunity. She could work up a storm, a dedicated brain and a fierce work ethic helped her there, but she firmly believed in enjoying oneself while you did.

Another drop in the vents, which she navigated by slipping down using her hands and feet as braces against the walls, sleeves and socks providing the slipping surface. Once at the bottom, she took off again.

Captain Robert had initially ordered her to aide the others as soon as she had trapped the pirate in the storage compartment, but after a brief pause had changed his mind. He had something else for her to do, down in the engine room.

As she ducked a pipe on her path down the latest incline, she grinned. This would be so much more fun.

*

“We went the wrong way! I told you we should a gone right, there’s nothing here” growled Sidon, turning on his frustrated partner. “You never listen.”

They had reached a dead end, meeting only valves and dials and pipes where they had hoped to find prey.

“Quit yer cryin’” snapped Erid. “You don’t know where yer goin’ either. We’ll go back. Saved us a trip later, at least we know nothin’s here.”

As if he were waiting for that very inviting line, Max kicked open the grate above them, the heavy metal grillwork swinging down on it’s hinges directly into the back of Erid’s head. Erid dropped, dead or very, very unconscious. Max dropped through the hole, rifle raised.

While the remaining two reacted to the sound of the gate and their downed partner, Spark slipped down behind Sidon, whose snide comeback to Erid was left hanging on his lips. An arm around his throat and quick knife to the base of the spine, Sidon was also removed from the equation. His body slid to the floor next to Erid’s, their argument decidedly over.

Seeing his two fellow pirates crumple to the cold floor, the last pirate, self-titled “Skull”, made his best effort to aim his gun at two targets at once without screaming like a little girl. He failed, on both counts. Max fired once, the shot echoing throughout the ship like rolling thunder.

“Max! I told yeh to silence that thing!” snapped Spark, wiping his knife on one of the fallen would-be thieves.

“I don’t have a silencer for this, just the pistol!”

“They’re interchangeable Max.”

“Really? Huh…”

The pair climbed back up into the air ducts and were gone. They had to make sure the rest of the ship was free before they could worry about taking out the trash.

*

Robert peered over the edge of the hole leading down on to Main Deck. The floor stank of oil and dirt, remnants of the thousands of times he had trekked up from the engine room or came in from being on-world. Robert had no idea if he would see his engine again, let alone a world.

His breath was quick and shallow, but controlled. There was no way out of this except to win and win definitively. His ship was in no shape for running or battle. His crew was tough and wily but the pirates had numbers. Stealth would only work for so long.

Robert waited, eyes peeled. He saw no one, but just because he couldn’t see something didn’t mean there wasn’t anything there. He flicked out his knife and slipped the blade over the edge, keeping it close to the ladder pole. He kept it highly polished and it’s blade served as a makeshift mirror. While it wasn’t perfect, the blade showed him a fair image of the Main Deck.

There. Near the door, a man in grey. No one else was in view. Robert sheathed his knife and back away from the ledge. He stood and leaned against the wall. No way to get to him without revealing myself, he thought. Guna have to shoot. Risky at this distance, but unavoidable.

Robert pulled a glove on to his left hand and drew his pistol in his right, walking as silently as possible around the hole so that he faced the ladder. If the wall wasn’t there, he’d be showing the intruder his back.

8 bullets in the clip, about 15 meters to target, who’s definitely armed. Deep breath…GO!

Robert jumped towards the hole and dropped down. As he fell, he crossed his gloved left hand over his chest, grabbed the semi-rusted ladder pole, and swung himself around, putting the ladder between him and the pirate. Robert fired three shots towards the doorway as he slid down the ladder, the silenced bullets whispering through the air like a hard wind. Robert didn’t see if his shots made their target before landing hard and feeling his ankle twist sharply. He dodged right, taking cover behind a crate and keeping the wall with the doorway against his side.

He had to move, no time to coddle an ankle. Robert popped up and prepared to fire at…nothing. The pirate was gone.

Robert listened. No screams of pain, calls for help, or any sound that indicated the pirate knew he’d been shot at. Ideally, Robert’s shots had killed the Pirate before any commotion could ensue and he’d just fallen back into the doorway. However, Robert knew his shots had been wild; he had planned to wound the pirate if he could and finish him from behind the cover of the crate.

Robert could see something on the floor where the pirate had stood only moments before. It was a small, dark spot, smeared a little towards the doorway. Blood.

After only a few moments of hesitation, Robert limped out from behind his cover towards the door. He had to finish the intruder off before he could warn anyone else inside the ship. With 5 shots left and a twisted ankle, Robert was in no shape to start a firefight.

As Robert hobbled towards the doorway, staying to its side to stay out of its line of sight, he heard footsteps that were not his own coming from the stairs. Back against the wall, he aimed.

Genie’s bright blonde hair peeked up from the stairwell, looking around carefully. Seeing Robert, she nodded. Life-support’s done.

Only a second or two later, Max and Spark emerged from a ventilation grate a few meters from the door on the other side from Robert. Seeing both Genie and their captain, they cautiously walked over to stand to the left of the door just as Robert made it to its other side. He took a quick look at his crew, nodding in approval. They had come through without a scratch and he was proud. One last loose end to tie up and they had a real chance of getting out of there without incident. When the others were in position, Robert silently mouthed the countdown.

1…2…3…now.

Robert quickly turned and aimed around the edge of the door, Max and Spark doing the same, only to find themselves aiming at a short empty corridor that ended at the airlock between ships.  Again…nothing. Not even blood on the floor. Where did he go? Robert asked himself. There’s nowhere to hide.

Robert checked the blood spot on the floor behind him, Genie now coming up to join them. He could see that the smudge had been made by the pirate’s boot, pointing towards the door. If he wasn’t in there…maybe the smudge had been made as the pirate pushed off away from the door, his foot slipping a bit on the blood as he ran. However, there was nowhere to run in the Main Deck that Robert wouldn’t have seen as he looked over the crate in the corner.

“Well, Captain,” began Max. “Where’d he-“

A bullet tore through the side of Max’s neck, ripping an ugly hole through the middle of his sentence. The bullet continued on to ricochet off of the door frame inches to the right of Robert’s head. Max’s hand flew to his neck as he dropped like a stone to the floor.

Over Max’s crumbling form, Robert saw what appeared to be Genie standing there awkwardly with a gun aimed at him. A closer look revealed that Genie wasn’t holding the gun, it was floating in front of her. Genie was pulling at something around her throat.

As Robert watched, the gun turned to press itself against Genie’s temple.

“No!” yelled Robert, starting towards the phantom gun.

“Stay where you are, Captain,“ a disembodied voice commanded from somewhere behind Genie.

Robert froze, weight resting mostly on his damaged ankle. He couldn’t launch himself at their new attacker without breaking it, which he was more than willing to do if he thought he had a real chance of saving Genie. Unfortunately, the attacker had chosen his position wisely, just a few meters outside of lunging range.

“I was aiming for you, Captain,” the voice continued, a vicious sneer that chilled the already cold air inside the ship. “Your man there was just conveniently standing in my line of sight. Two birds with one stone, as they say.”

Robert said nothing. He wouldn’t banter with this murderer. Now he could see a pair of eyes above Genie’s shoulder, the eyes of a predator bird, quick and cutting. Whereas Robert thought the gun had been floating, he could see now that Genie was blurred slightly along the path of a would-be arm holding the weapon. The area around the eyes was similarly blurred. In such a tense moment, Robert was able to glean a small measure of satisfaction: he had managed to hit the pirate in the shoulder. He could see what looked like a floating patch of bloody skin and fabric beside the eyes.

The voice continued. “I want you to back away from that door. I have a considerable desire to return to my ship and you are blocking my way.”

“You’re only going to come back with more and kill us,” growled Robert.

“Indeed I am. I plan to kill each and every one of you. However, I like this one. She’s rather pretty. I will bring her on board and she will live, in a manner of speaking. But if you do not move, I will shoot her in the head. No questions asked. I will run. Do you think you can hit a ghost with that pistol of yours, Captain?”

Robert was very tempted to try, right at that moment, but he could barely see the pirate and wouldn’t risk Genie.

“I will hide and take you out slowly, one by one, ending with you, Captain. The lives of your crew will weigh heavy on your shoulders before I end your life. So, your choices are clear. Step aside and one of you lives. Do not and all of you perish. You have 5 seconds to decide. 5.”

Robert’s mind worked frantically, trying to find any alternative. Genie wouldn’t want him to save her at the cost of everyone else, especially not if she were to live the kind of life subtly suggested by the pirate. He could see the rage in her eyes, knowing she was trying desperately to figure out a way to break this man’s face. However, she was held fast and helpless and Robert couldn’t bring himself to choose a course of action that would certainly kill her.

“4.”

Robert’s ankle was throbbing, his bullet clip half-empty, and his options severely limited. Max was bleeding out on the floor, if not dead already.

“3.”

Spark was also out of range, without a clear shot. The pirate had set this up too well.

“2.”

“Wait!” cried Robert, straining forward on his agonizing ankle.

“1. Too bad.”

Advertisements
Comments
3 Responses to “Set Adrift, pt. 3”
  1. Jax says:

    You HAD to leave it like that?! fml…..

  2. Johanna Schaechter says:

    Keep going Ken!!!!!! love Hanna

  3. Lizard says:

    Agreed with Jax.

See anything thought provoking? Comment and spill!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: